T.S. Monk Speaks Out
Which is why when you listen to a body of work like Duke Ellington's he explored everything from Byzantine chants to the great European classics, to primal shit coming out of the jungles of South America. When you listen to the expansive work of Miles you see why Miles had to tell the jazz police, 'Get the fuck out of my face, I ain't got to wear a certain kind of suit and play certain kinds of rhythms to be a jazz musician. We are jazz and will tell you what jazz is.' That's what we have to do. That's what I'm engaged in. Personally, for me, I hope it works. But if it doesn't, you know what the bottom line is'and this goes all the way back to my dad and who I am'the bottom line, man, is you gotta be who you are. Maybe the people won't dig you. You see, I watched my father live with that, and he said, 'But this is who I am'. So I have to do this. So this still has a lot to do with my dad, who I am, and how I have to conduct myself. I can't be the keeper of the straight ahead thing for all the people who love that. I can't be my daddy's keeper twenty-four seven for all the people who want that, and I can't play funk all day and night because I don't want to. I'm all of these things. I like to sing a song. I like to tell a joke and I like to talk a lot. And I like to be a chairman, and I like jazz education. I'm all these things and my father told me, he looked at me and said, 'Now you know you can't just be a drummer.' You dig? So I'm right on course as far as I'm concerned, and if the world digs me, they dig me. If they don't, I can put my head down at night and say, 'I know who T.S. Monk is and this is who he is.' For the most part, the jazz community has been very, very friendly to me, to everything I've done. I can't believe I've been on the cover of Down Beat twice. My father wasn't even once in his lifetime. All these beautiful things, hanging out with presidents, all these things that have happened to me since I came back to jazz, all says, 'you better be what you are. Don't you dare put a false impression out there after all your dad did to clear the decks so you can be who you are. So go on and be who you are'. Let the chips fall where they may.